Kelly Fergusson, mayor of Menlo Park, Calif. ("investment capital of the world!"), asks: we’ve overcome huge environmental challenges like DDT and the ozone hole before. What can we learn from those successes?
First, Gore causes me to do a double take by saying that his mother used to read to he and his sister from Silent Spring. Jeebus! I guess that explains a lot.
However, he knows more about the ozone fight. And boy does he know about it — here he launches into a mini-history about CFCs, the Nobel chemists who discovered them, how they still affect the chemical composition of the air, etc. It really is fun to watch Gore in a context that doesn’t demand soundbites.
For years, nothing happened in response to scientists’ warnings — then in 1986, a hole in the ozone opened up over Antarctica, and it "set off alarm bells." Ronald Reagan ignored the advice of his Interior Secretary Donald Hodel — for everyone to wear floppy hats and sunglasses — and instead listened to Secretary of State George Shultz. He reached across the aisle, and a year later in Montreal the U.S. led the way to a large, successful international treaty.
Some companies fought this all the way, paid for phony reports, demonized scientists, the usual. But some got ahead of the curve on solutions and profited from it.
Above all, we discovered that when we really decide to act, it’s not as hard as we thought it would be and we benefit immensely from doing the right thing.
Our modern-day Reagan (Bush) is listening to his Hodel (Cheney) rather than his Shultz (Whitman). But never mind — the recent accelerated melting of Arctic ice should be the equivalent of the ozone hole — an alarm bell. Once we get on with it, we’ll find it less difficult and expensive than we think. The time to get going is now.